The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. Treatment of debts under income management


This topic contains information on:

  • treatment of Centrelink debts
  • treatment of private debts, and
  • treatment of rental arrears or property debts.

Treatment of Centrelink debts

The amount of a person's payment that is income managed is determined after their gross entitlement has been calculated, less any compulsory deductions ( Compulsory deductions include deductions related to Centrelink overpayment recovery (e.g. withholdings).

Deductions are applied in this way, regardless of whether the Centrelink debt or withholdings started before or after the commencement of income management.

Note: Income managed funds can be used to make lump sum repayments towards Centrelink debts. This action can only be taken with the agreement of the person, and the delegate MUST still ensure that the priority needs of the person and those of their partner and dependants are met first, before an amount is repaid to the Commonwealth.

Treatment of private debts

Private debts can be paid from income managed funds where they relate to a priority need. It does not matter if the debt was incurred before the person became subject to income management.

Other debts not relating to priority needs, such as parking or other fines (, would be expected to be paid out of a person's discretionary income. Alternatively, these debts may be paid from income managed funds if the delegate is satisfied that the current, and reasonably foreseeable priority needs of the person, their partner and dependants can also be met from the person's income management account.

The delegate must take action to ensure that the debt was not incurred to purchase prohibited goods/services (e.g. pre-existing credit card debts.)

Treatment of rental arrears or property debt

If a person incurs a debt for expenses related to priority needs (e.g. debt for damage to property in relation to the priority need of housing) and payment of this debt is directly related to the person obtaining or maintaining this priority need, then income managed funds may be directed to repaying such debts.

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